Former Clerys staff protest at offices of store’s new owners

Around two dozen ex-staff urge management to meet them over outstanding wages

The former employees of Clerys department store are still protesting 11 weeks after losing their jobs.

 

About two dozen former Clerys workers protested outside the offices of the company’s owners on the quays in Dublin on Friday afternoon.

The workers held banners urging the management of Natrium Ltd to meet them, some 11 weeks after the store was closed suddenly with the loss of more than 400 jobs.

Some blew whistles while one banner urged passing motorists to beep in support.

Many drivers, including Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann drivers, beeped their horns as they passed the protest.

The workers chanted: “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now.”

They also sang the line: “Justice for the Clerys workers.”

Susie Gaynor McGowan, who used to work in ladies’ fashions in the O’Connell Street store, said she understood most of her former colleagues had received statutory redundancy payments but that other former workers had received nothing from the company.

“We paid for our own redundancies, basically.”

Ms Gaynor McGowan said the workers had made “such a commotion” outside the former offices of Natrium on Harcourt Street that it had now moved its address to the A&L Goodbody building on North Wall Quay.

“Our redundancy payments are through for the most part. Most of us have received our back wages at this stage. There are still a few people outstanding.

“Most of the concession workers, or a lot of them, have got jobs. Some have opened new shops. The Cinders girls have opened a new shop in the GPO Arcade. Some of our own Clerys staff have gotten jobs in Arnotts and in Fashion City in Ballymount.”

Ms Gaynor McGowan said the workers simply wanted Natrium to meet with them.

“We want to know why they treated us the way they did and why did they think they could get away with treating people with such little respect.

“We also want the law to change so that this doesn’t happen to another company.”

‘Robbed of service’

Siptu shop steward Gerry Markey from Finglas said he deserved enough respect “to be let go in a proper and a civil and a respectful manner.

“I’m still looking for that. I’ve been robbed of 34-years' service. I’ll never do 34 years with anybody else.”

Mr Markey said some payments, including wages, were owed to him and others.

He said that he would consider taking another job, even for €10 or €12 an hour.

“I want to be able to get back working again. I want to be able to give money back to the taxpayers. But it’s wrong that the taxpayer has to pay for my redundancy.”

Anthony Murphy from Marino, who worked for Clerys for 42 years from 1972, had a mild heart attack and other health issues following the flooding of the store in 2013 and was out of work on invalidity benefit.

His wife Caroline also worked for the shop. They learned of its closure via the media, he said.

“My wife is looking for a job. She’s applying, but the worst thing about it is that some of them don’t even acknowledge when you send in a CV. What firms should do is reply and say they’ve received your CV and it’s on file. It’s terrible.”

Clerys was sold by Boston-based Gordon Brothers to Natrium Ltd last June.

The group that ran the department store, OCS Operations Ltd, was placed into liquidation, resulting in the immediate closure of the store.

More than 400 staff lost their jobs, including direct employees of Clerys and those employed by concession holders.